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Updated: 41 min 5 sec ago

Unemployment Insurance Claims

Thu, 08/14/2014 - 09:10
  • Initial claims for unemployment insurance filed under the regular state programs during the week ended August 9 rose to 311,000, an increase of 21,000 from the previous week’s level. The trend has generally been downward so the spike may just be due to data volatility. The 4-week moving average in which volatility has been smoothed out is at 295,750 claims which is still below the benchmark of 300,000 that most analysts consider as an indicator of normal economic activity.

  • Initial claims data by state lag a week compared to the national level data. For the week ended August 2 during which unemployment insurance claims fell to 290,000, the states that reported large decreases were California (-9,244), Tennessee (-1090), and New York (-1063). NY reported a decline in claims from the food service, educational service, and transportation/warehousing sectors.
  •  Commercial REALTORS® should expect a boost in demand for warehouse spaces.

The Latest Retail Sales

Thu, 08/14/2014 - 06:47
  • Consumer spending at retail shops is growing less robustly now than before.  Retail sales in July were up 3.7 percent from one year ago, and marked a deceleration from the 5-to-7 percent growth experienced in recent past years during economic recovery periods.  The retail vacancy rates will therefore barely move down from the current high level.
  • Regarding home-related spending, people are spending more for outdoors items rather than for indoors.  Sales of building materials-and-garden equipment rose by 5.1 percent while sales at furniture-and-home furnishing shops grew by only 2.5 percent.  Only a robust home sales recovery can kick up sales in these stores.
  • Spending at restaurants is gaining speed, up 6.2 percent from a year ago.  It could be related to huge stock market gains over the past few years that may be helping the wealthier people to enjoy good food and fine wine.  More restaurants could be opening.
  • Not at a restaurant, but spending at liquor stores also increased with surprising strength at 8 percent. Let’s hope recent gains are related to people celebrating events and not for drowning their sorrows.
  • The decelerating retail sale growth is not good news for commercial REALTORS® needing to find tenants for empty retail spaces, though working with Pharmaceutical companies looks to have a better pay-off.  Another trend worth noting is the rise in sales via the internet, which means there will be increasing demand for warehouse spaces though not for retail spaces.  As a testament of that trend, job growth in warehousing is about twice as fast as in retail trade.
  • NAR expects the retail vacancy rate to hover at 10 percent and retail rents to rise at 2 percent this year and next.
  • Two other retail sectors of note are the fast sales growth (8 percent) occurring at pharmacy and drug stores and falling sales (minus 2 percent) at sporting shops.  Is America becoming less healthy or is this trend related to America getting old?
  • In that vein, ancient classical Greeks loved competition.  There were frequent officially sponsored contests.  The Olympics was one.  But there were other competitions that drew huge crowds as well such as who could write the best tragic plays.  The country lived by the simple motto of “a healthy mind in a healthy body”.  Remember that when you’re tempted to just sit and watch TV.  Get moving and think creative thoughts – about business or other matters.   Raise a glass to celebrate.  But don’t allow, as F. Scott Fitzgerald would lament, the drink to take you.

 

Sales to First Time Buyers: 28 Percent of Sales

Wed, 08/13/2014 - 12:35

Approximately 28 percent of REALTOR® respondents reported that their last transaction in June was by a first time home buyer (27 percent in May) [1], according to the June 2014 REALTORS® Confidence Index.

Tight underwriting standards are especially challenging for first-time buyers, who generally need mortgage financing with low down payment terms, may be paying off student debt, and may have credit scores that are not top-notch. REALTORS® have also reported that the increase in FHA mortgage insurance costs is discouraging buyers or making loans unaffordable. Inability to pay for closing costs was also reported to be adversely affecting sales.

[1] First time buyers account for about 40 percent of all homebuyers based on data from NAR’s Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. NAR’s survey of buyers and sellers in general does not capture investor purchases but does cover both existing and new home sales. In contrast, NAR’s Realtor Confidence Index Survey, which surveys REALTORS®, captures purchases for investment purposes.

Fed Survey Shows Improvement and Caution

Tue, 08/12/2014 - 07:09

Summary:

  • Fed survey shows growing prime lending, but weak elsewhere
  • Lenders cautious after implementation of new rules; more caution in jumbo and non-traditional space
  • Consumer costs in general have risen due to compliance costs
  • Lending would be tighter without temporary exemptions for GSE production
  • CFPB should consider a permanent GSE exemption and compensating factors

The Federal Reserve released its Senior Loan Officer Opinion Survey (SLOOS) for the 2nd quarter of 2014 on Monday.  The report covers lending patterns for prime, subprime, and non-traditional (jumbo) loans.  This quarter’s reports shows some positive movements in prime lending, but ominous signs about the new regulatory environment.

Respondents indicated a strong net improvement in willingness to lend to prime candidates.  As depicted below by the blue line below, when asked whether they were tightening or loosening standards, on net the field indicated 20% more were loosening than tightening, the first significant improvement since the housing decline in 2009.  Lending to non-traditional mortgages showed modest improvement, but subprime lending remained unchanged from its tight stance.  The improvement in lending for prime loans was led by large banks and likely reflects actions by lenders such as Wells Fargo to expand lending to lower FICO borrowers with the use of compensating factors.

Demand for loans showed a similar pattern with prime borrowers increasing, non-traditional interest modestly higher, while demand from subprime borrowers was neutral.   A survey by the New York Federal reserve from earlier this summer suggested that borrowers with lower credit scores expect to apply less often for mortgages over the remainder of 2014 and they expect to be rejected for those applications at a higher rate than borrowers with better credit scores.  The implication is that the sluggish response from non-prime borrowers could reflect the weak borrower expectations.

Also of interest in this quarter’s SLOOS is a set of questions related to the new rules that went into effect on January 10th of this year and which govern all mortgage lending practices.  The new rules require lenders to verify a borrower’s ability to repay the mortgage (ATR) or face legal action.  A lender can earn a presumption of compliance with the ATR by fulfilling certain obligations that define the loans as a qualified mortgage.  There are two levels of QM loans, the safe harbor which grants more legal safety and a rebuttable presumption.

When asked to identify the extent to which the new ATR/QM rules impacted their likelihood of approving an application for a prime borrower with a FICO greater than or equal to 680, 32.9% of lenders indicated that their approval rate was “somewhat” lower than it would otherwise be and 2.9% indicated that it was “much” lower, while 1.4% indicated that it was “somewhat” higher.   The caution though was disproportionately more evident among small and mid-sized lenders, 47.1% of whom indicated a “somewhat” lower willingness to approve loans as depicted below.  This pattern was also true when lenders were asked about prime borrowers with credit scores below 680.

A separate survey released this week by Bankrate.com showed an 8.5% increase in lender origination fees from 2013 to 2014.  Respondents indicated the higher fees were a result of increases in staffing and compliance costs that resulted from the new rules.

Finally, the Fed survey asked lenders who indicated that their lending was “the same” under the new rules whether elimination of the GSE’s exemption to the 43% back-end DTI requirement would have impacted their outlook.   Of these respondents, 36% indicated that their policies would be “somewhat” tighter without the exemption while 18% indicated it would be “substantially” tighter.

With the new ATR/QM roughly six months behind us, it appears that lenders remain cautious about the new rules and are passing on compliance costs to the consumer.  However, the rules have helped to reduce some risks with lenders hesitant to make loans with risky product features and verifying a borrower’s ability to repay.  Still, it appears that there are some areas, including the 43% DTI, where the CFPB could improve liquidity by making this rule permanent for the GSEs and exploring the use of compensating factors for non-GSE loans with DTIs greater than 43%.

Latest Commercial Property Prices: July 2014

Mon, 08/11/2014 - 09:33

• There is an all-time high in commercial property prices, according to Green Street Advisors. The price index in July was unchanged from the record-high set in June. It is up 6.0 percent from one year ago and up a whopping 76 percent from the cyclical low five years ago.
• For those who took the plunge to buy during the scary times in 2009, the returns on their investments have been quite spectacular. Warren Buffet’s adage – “buy when others are fearful and sell when others are greedy” – appears right-on regarding recent cycle of commercial real estate. But given the likely rising interest rate environment, the opportunities for further price gains could be limited. That is, there will be less chasing of yields and chasing after commercial real estate if alternative investments like the U.S. Treasury offer higher interest rates.
• This Green Street Advisors index is should be taken with a grain of salt. First, it captures the information of contracts and appraisal data, and not the final transacted prices. Second, it only tracks properties that are very expensive in cities like New York and San Francisco. It misses out on commercial property prices of local bakeries in Indianapolis or warehouse building across the railroad tracks in Chattanooga, for example.
• Another index from the Federal Reserve shows recovering prices but not at record highs.
• Commercial REALTOR® members are active in all markets and have indicated that commercial property prices have only turned positive in the past year. The prices are nowhere near record highs. This also means there could be a reallocation of investment money away from Green Street-type properties to smaller-sized commercial buildings in mid-sized cities.

Where Are Retirees Moving?

Fri, 08/08/2014 - 13:20

Many people choose to change location when they retire. Below is a story based on the migration flows for retirees (65 years +) in the 100 largest metropolitan areas. Specifically, the story compares the percentage of people (any age) moving from different state to these cities and the percentage of retirees moving and living in these cities.

  • Florida has experienced the highest inflow of retirees. The area between Sarasota and Cape Coral – Fort Myers are the most favorable cities among retirees on the move. Miami has also large number of retirees moving (12.6%) and living (24.5%) there.
  • McAllen, Texas has a large number of retirees moving to the city. Almost one out of five people moving to the city is a retiree. The benefits of lower medical cost across the border may be the reason.
  • Phoenix and Tucson have many retirees moving and living in the city.
  • One out of 10 people moving to Las Vegas is 65 years and older.
  • Youngstown (16.1% of the population), Scranton (18.1%) and Buffalo (16.1%) have a sizable retiree population. But the reasons are due to younger people going elsewhere.

Click on the tabs to follow the story. Hover over the map for a snapshot of each metro area’s share and see how the map changes moving along the story. Data collected from 2010 through 2012 as part of the American Community Survey (ACS). Metro areas are colored with dark green indicating the highest percentage and, respectively with red indicating the lowest percentage. “Movers” are identified as people moving from different state to the city and “Retirees” as people 65 years and older.

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Latest Worker Productivity Data

Fri, 08/08/2014 - 10:21
  • American workers became more productive in the second quarter after dozing off in the first quarter. Productivity – measured as total output for a given hour of work – rose 2.5 percent in the second quarter after having fallen 4.5 percent in the first quarter. Aside from quarter-to-quarter choppiness, productivity has been growing at less than one percent for the past 4 years.
  • By comparison, during the economic glory days of the 1950s and 1960s in the United States, when standards of living rapidly rose and the U.S. became an economic superpower, productivity grew by nearly 3 percent annually.
  • REALTOR® productivity has been rising recently. Thanks to a housing recovery from 3 years ago, average transactions per REALTOR® have risen from 10 transactions a year in 2011 to 12 transactions a year in 2012 and 2013. Those who are new to the industry are far less productive, with an average of only 3 transactions a year, while those who have been practicing for over 15 years have on average 15 transactions per year.
  • Real estate brokerages are also getting more productive in terms of utilizing smaller square footage of office space per agent. There used to be about one back-office staff person for about 15 to 20 agents. Now the figure is said to be one back-office staff person for 25 to 35 agents.
  • Consistent productivity growth will solve many economic problems. GDP will expand faster. The budget deficit will fall more rapidly. Entitlement spending can be better absorbed. And most important, standard of living will rise with more leisure hours. Let’s hope U.S. productivity can kick into higher gear soon and on a consistent basis.
  • Some industries by nature cannot increase productivity. Classical music concerts always require a certain number of musicians playing the violin and cello. That is, one cannot reduce the number of musicians and get the full effect. A Broadway show is similar – there needs to be a certain number of performers to make it work. In these industries, ticket prices become ever more expensive over time since productivity cannot rise.
  • ESPN analysis shows that many multimillionaire sports players are said to go bankrupt within 5 years of retirement. This is likely related to having a large entourage. Any unproductive person tagging along with a star and getting paid will drain away dollars quite quickly.

REALTOR® University Speaker Series: “Still Stuck in Traffic”

Wed, 08/06/2014 - 12:24

Presentation by Dr. Anthony Downs, Senior Fellow Brookings Institution
Summary by Jed Smith, Managing Director, Quantitative Research

The REALTOR® University Brown Bag monthly lecture series features presentations by well-known economists, analysts, and social scientists on evolving national and regional issues of interest to REALTORS®.  Lectures are available on www. realtor.org.  The presentation by Dr. Anthony Downs focused on a housing issue of interest to everyone—traffic congestion:  Watch the highlights video.

Most Americans agree that traffic congestion is a major problem in their communities, and congestion seems to be getting worse.  Dr. Anthony Downs discusses the problems of traffic congestion—based on his book Still Stuck in Traffic.   He focused on three major issues:

  • Why congestion occurs:  Efficiencies of scale from the interaction of people increase as the number of people present increases.  Bigger areas and gatherings of people produce even more efficiency than is the case for smaller gatherings.  Economic efficiency, growth, and congestion seem to vary together.
  • Where future population growth is likely to develop:  Dr. Downs noted that urban planners advocate high density, high rise population concentrations.  However, analyses of urban areas with population growth in recent years have shown that the majority of population  growth has occurred in the suburbs.  High density population concentrations have not proven to be popular, although urban planners view such concentrations as desirable—their story and they are sticking to it!  Planners project an additional 129 million additional people living in central cities over 2010-2050.  There just isn’t enough space in the central cities to accommodate this number of people. Again—more commuting and congestion due to people commuting.
  • Will walkable communities will dominate future housing choices?  Dr. Downs noted that urban planners focus on walkable communities as an ideal for the future development of cities, alleging that the Millennial generation prefers to walk, bike, or use public transportation. As he indicated, the Millenials have not yet reached two important stages in life:  marriage and children.  Small children need open space, monitored gathering places, playgrounds, and specialized facilities and services—not walkable open air bars and great shopping experiences.

What Does this Mean to REALTORS®?  It’s easy to note that a house is in the midst of congestion.  In some cases, that may be good for the prospective buyer—congestion goes with the desirable features.  In addition, finding a home near good shopping and restaurants sounds great, but the buyer may want to think ahead a few years as to how the home will fit with long term needs.  

Housing Demand from Population Growth

Wed, 08/06/2014 - 09:23
  • The most boring economic statistical trend is U.S. population. It grows by one percent each year, a gain of about 2 to 3 million. The trend arises from about 4 million live births and about 2 million deaths in the U.S. each year. Legal immigration makes up the remainder.
  • More people should mean more housing demand. But that is not always the case. What really matters is household formation. One household can be one person living in a city apartment. One household can also mean a family of six living in a suburban home. Population growth therefore can be accompanied at times by no growth in households if a young adult moves-in with a parent(s). Currently, there are a record number of such cases. Such crowded living arrangements do not create housing demand.
  • Bad news: Historically, there had been about 1.2 to 1.4 million net new household formations each year in the U.S. The figure is typically low during an economic downturn and then bounces higher as better times return. What is most perplexing today is that the household formation has been running at half the normal rate for not one or two years but for seven straight years.
  • Good news: It seems near impossible for household formation to remain crunched as it has been in the upcoming years. Household formations are therefore bound to pop-out. That in turn will create demand for both rental and ownership housing. Home sales and housing starts will therefore mostly rise in the upcoming years.
  • Conversely, as common sense would have it, countries or regions experiencing population declines will have less need for new home construction and should expect far fewer home sales. Germany, Italy, Japan, and Russia are current examples. People in these countries are choosing to have fewer babies and hence the housing industry should not expect rolling times.
  • Not from choice, but terrible events can lead to major depopulation. Europe, on August 4th, took pause to remember the horrific war that occurred 100 years ago. At the start, soldiers mobilized across Europe with an enthusiastic spirit as if going to a football match. Then the reality of dirty trench warfare took hold. 16 million died during the war. After the war ended, another tragedy struck. The Spanish Flu spanned the globe and took even more lives: 20 to 40 million. Though inconsequential to the above matter, records show virtually no new houses being built for about twenty years in France.

Properties Typically Sold Within 44 Days in June 2014

Tue, 08/05/2014 - 08:21

With home inventories limited relative to demand, properties were reported as selling faster for the sixth straight month, typically at 44 days (47 days in May) [1], according to the June 2014 REALTORS® Confidence Index. Short sales were on the market for the longest, at 120 days (125 days in May), and foreclosed properties were on market at 54 days (57 days in May). Non-distressed properties were on the market at 42 days (44 days in May). Conditions varied across areas.

Approximately 42 percent of respondents reported that properties were on the market for less than a month when sold, and about 5 percent were on the market for more than six months.

[1] This is the median days on the market. A median of say 30 days means that half of the properties were on the market for less than 30 days and another half of properties were on the market for more than 30 days.

Shadow Inventory in June

Mon, 08/04/2014 - 10:35
  • Shadow inventory – defined as the number of properties in the foreclosure process or in serious delinquency status – fell modestly in June from the prior month and is well below the level of one year ago.  The overall trend is far fewer scary properties in the pipeline.  That automatically means fewer distressed property sales in the future and should also mean a better appraisal process.
  • Here are the fresh numbers according to Black Knight Financial Service:
    • Seriously delinquent or in foreclosure was 4.17% in June, up from 4.22% in May, but down from 5.6% one year ago.
    • The number of foreclosure starts did increase to 88,314 from 86,258 over the month.  But this is not a trend but the timing of when states are initiating the foreclosure process, particularly in judicial states.
  • NAR’s data from the REALTORS® Confidence Index shows a marked decline in distressed property sales.  The number of foreclosure sales made up only 8 percent of all sales while short sales comprised only 4 percent.  REALTORS® who specialized in this market segment should be aware of declining business opportunities in the months ahead.  The comparable figures this time next year will be about half of today’s distressed figures.
  • Some states have made a spectacular progress.  Shadows in Arizona and California have been all but burned off.
  • Some states still have looming shadow inventory and hence will be lagging behind in home price recovery.  New Jersey and New York are prime examples of where the court system has been very slow to move turn the property into an REO.  Anecdotal stories abound of “distressed homeowners” still in a home even after not paying mortgages for more than 2 years.  Some are said to game the system, such as leaving the residence and finding a renter: paying no mortgage and collecting rental income.  Do not be surprised therefore if current mortgage borrowers in NJ and NY are paying higher mortgage rates to compensate for this type of lender risk.

The Metropolitan Revolution [REALTOR® University Speaker Series]

Mon, 08/04/2014 - 08:02

Presentation by Brooking Institution’s Jennifer Bradley
Summary by Jed Smith, Managing Director, Quantitative Research

The REALTOR® University Brown Bag monthly lecture series features presentations by leading economists, analysts, and social scientists on evolving national and regional issues of interest to REALTORS®. Jennifer Bradley focused on a new approach to revitalizing urban areas and creating more jobs though the integration of technology and community networking:

Ms. Bradley noted that the top 100 U.S. urban areas account for approximately 75 percent of U.S. GDP, 1/8 of land, and 2/3 of the people. She views urban areas as the place where innovation and resources can create jobs. Bradley noted that until recently, the approach to job growth has focused on government spending to prime economic activity. Based on her work with the Brookings Metropolitan Project she has propounded a new job creating paradigm based on innovation and networking.

Bradley notes that metropolitan areas are ideally suited for the promotion of innovation. Urban areas typically have a wide variety of assets—research centers, educational centers, diverse populations, creative individuals, and transportation and other resources. In the examples which she cites she focuses on a key approach for success in job creation: activating networks across organizations to provide a basis for experimentation, innovation, and interpersonal contact, resulting in the full utilization of an areas assets. In short, cities can create value by creating opportunities for networking and experimentation. She indicates that the development of a vibrant networked culture will drive the types of growth discussed in the Metropolitan Revolution.

What Does this Mean to REALTORS®? As leaders in the community with numerous contacts REALTORS® may have an opportunity to help with job growth, community revitalization, and the growth of business—which is good for everybody’s business.

In addition to the talk, the videos referenced in Ms. Bradley’s talk can be found on-line:

July Employment Report

Fri, 08/01/2014 - 09:22
  • Solid job gains of 209,000 in July, bringing the 12-month tally to 2.6 million.  Job gains will be critical for home sales and commercial leasing activity in what will inevitably be a rising interest rate environment ahead.
  • Construction related jobs rose by 22,000 over the month and by 211,000 in the past year.  Though positive, the construction jobs are not rising as fast as housing starts, which imply there is a labor shortage in this sector.  Homebuilders and general contractors will need to pay higher wages to entice people to work in homebuilding.
  • A typical worker’s wage rose by 2.0 percent over the past 12-months.  Since consumer price inflation is running roughly the same (2.1 percent in July), there is no net gain in purchasing power for consumers.  Consumer’s housing costs are rising faster:  national rents at 3-to-4 percent and national home prices at 4-to-9 percent depending upon data source.  Local market data has larger variations.
  • The unemployment rate rose a notch to 6.2 percent.  The increase is due to more people re-entering the labor force.  The trend of more people searching for work is a good development even if they cannot find a job right away.  A healthy person should not be sitting on a couch at home all day.
  • The employment rate – how many of the adult population have jobs – stood at 59 percent.  Before the financial market crisis in 2008, the employment rate had been 62 to 64 percent.  So there is still a plenty of room for improvement in America’s employment situation.
  • The latest data is good all-around and we hope the trend continues.  But one sad commentary is worth noting.  Aside from construction, there is an acute labor shortage in trucking driving.  A college degree is not required and annual pay can be $80,000 to $100,000 after putting-in overtime hours.  Yet, the trucking industry is having difficult time finding drivers.  The reason: drugs.  Irrespective of how one feels about drug usage, from the libertarian view of free choice as long as it harms no one to some claims of health benefits, the trucking industry is focused on only one thing: safety!  And many applicants, unfortunately, cannot pass the drug test.

REALTORS® Expect Modest Price Growth in Next 12 Months, Based on June 2014 REALTOR® Survey

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 07:45

REALTORS® generally expect home prices to increase in all states and the District of Columbia over the next 12 months, according to the June 2014 REALTORS® Confidence Index. The median expected price increase is 3.6 percent [1].

Expected price movements depend on local conditions relating to housing demand and supply, demographics, and job growth. Difficulties in accessing mortgage financing, and modest expectations about overall economic and job prospects are factors underpinning the modest price expectation. The expected price growth was highest in FL, TX, CA, and OR, where inventory remains tight, and where there are strong growth sectors (e.g., technology, oil) and cash sales (FL).

[1] The median expected price change is the value such that 50 percent of respondents expect prices to change above this value and 50 percent of respondents expect prices to change below this value. A median expected price change is computed for each state based on the respondents for that state. The graph shows the range of these state median expected price changes. To increase sample size, the data is averaged from the last three survey months.

Latest GDP: Second Quarter

Wed, 07/30/2014 - 09:05
  • There was a sharp bounce back in GDP in the second quarter, with a 4 percent growth rate. This assures that a recession is not in the cards and that job gains will continue.
  • Gross Domestic Product, or GDP, tries to measure the monetary value of all things produced in the U.S. It also indirectly measures everyone’s income all combined. The fact that it grew solidly on the heels of a measurable decline in the first quarter is reassuring that people’s income and job gains will continue. That in turn will help build an additional pool of home buyers and increase leasing activity in commercial real estate.
  • The latest growth was led by solid gains in residential construction (7.5 percent gain) and a respectable growth in business spending (5.5 percent gain). Consumer spending growth was humming along at 2.5 percent. The government spending contribution was modest. The net export situation deteriorated a bit as Americans bought too many foreign-made things.
  • Caution Ahead: there was a sizable growth in business inventory. This trend counts as current production but also means there is less need to rapidly expand in the months ahead. GDP growth for the remainder of the year is likely to be 2 to 3 percent. For the year as a whole, accounting for the disappointing first quarter, GDP will likely expand by only 1.7 percent in 2014.
  • U.S. GDP growth of 1.7 percent looks puny when compared to the second biggest economy in the world. China is projected to grow by 7 to 8 percent. The gap between the two largest economies will therefore narrow.
  • The very fast growth in China is creating many growing pains. Pollution conditions are absolutely awful – just as was the case in the British Industrial Revolution in the past century. Some processed food was found to contain anti-freeze and some pork meat was colored to look like beef. Confucianism is being set aside in favor of materialism. Many women from watching a popular dating show are said to prefer “crying in the backseat of a BMW over laughing on the back of a bicycle.” Not too different from the U.S. reality shows of a similar genre.

 

Homeownership Rate in the Second Quarter of 2014

Wed, 07/30/2014 - 07:20
  • The homeownership rate fell to 64.8 percent in the second quarter.  It marks the lowest ownership rate in nearly 20 years.  After peaking at 69 percent in 2004, the ownership rate has been steadily falling, at first from the aftermath effects of housing market bubble-crash to the ongoing tight mortgage availability conditions now.
  • The falling homeownership in recent years is partly due to the struggles of first-time buyers.  Lower wages and larger student debts among recent college graduates have limited the millennial generation from taking advantage of the historically low interest rates.
  • Though the homeownership rate fell, it is worth noting that there were more homeowners in the latest data then before.  It’s just that the renting population grew faster.  Specifically, over the past 3 months, the number of renting households increased by 312,000, while the number of homeowners increased by 54,000.
  • The strange pattern of more homeowners but a falling homeownership rate (because of an even faster rise in the number of renters) will continue for the next 2 years at least.  That’s because household formation of young adults who had been living with their parents will seek out their own housing with an improving economy, first as renters before making the shift to homeowners.  This trend also means that housing demand for both home purchases and rentals will be on the increase.
  • Too much homeownership through easy credit can bite back painfully as witnessed in the past decade in the U.S.  At the same time, very tight underwriting standards limits many young adults from becoming successful homeowners.  It is worth recalling that sustainable homeownership without the bubble and foreclosure can drastically change a country.  Think Australia.  Former convicts (mostly of minor crimes) when given a land to own were able to transform themselves into responsible citizens.  These transcendent experiences of former convicts are the key reasons that the country Down Under came to be one of the wealthiest countries in the world.

 

Latest Existing Home Sales Data Release

Tue, 07/29/2014 - 15:37
  • NAR recently released a summary of existing home sales data showing that existing home sales continued to improve in June, reaching an annual pace of 5 million for the first time this year. June marks the third consecutive month of increased sales, and June’s figures represent a 2.6% improvement from last month, though sales are still 2.3% below a year ago.
  • The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $223,300 in June, up 4.3% percent from June 2013. June’s data also continues a trend of year-over-year price gains for the past two years.
  • All regions showed growth in prices, except the Northeast, which experienced a minor decline of 0.1%. The West continues to maintain the biggest price gain at 7.2% from a year ago.
  • June’s inventory figures increased by 6.5% from a year ago – it will take 5.5 months to move the current level of inventory. It takes approximately 44 days for a home to go from listing to a contract in the current housing market.
  • Distressed sales are showing signs of thinning out. All cash buyers are still strong, representing 1/3 of the home purchasing population. Home buyers are moving into condos at a higher rate than single family homes while single family prices are rising faster than condo prices.

Case-Shiller Home Price Index

Tue, 07/29/2014 - 11:20
  • Last week NAR released median home price information that showed gains of 4.5 percent in June 2014 home prices compared to June 2013. This gain was slightly higher than the 4.1 percent seen in May and notably slower than double-digit price growth in summer/fall 2013.
  • Today, S&P/Case-Shiller released their housing price index for May which showed that home prices grew 9.3 percent year-over-year for the 20-city index and 9.4 percent for the 10-city index. This was the first month in the last 15 months that Case-Shiller showed year-over-year gains of less than 10 percent. NAR data showed that the 11 months of double-digit price gains ended in late 2013.
  • NAR reports the median price of all homes that have sold while Case-Shiller reports the results of a weighted repeat-sales index. Because home sales among higher priced properties have been growing more than among lower price tiers, the NAR median price had risen by more than the weighted repeat sales index—which computes price change based on repeat sales of the same property.
  • The reason Case-Shiller’s reported price growth is now higher is likely a result of the data lag. Case-Shiller uses public records data which has a reporting lag. To deal with the lag, Case-Shiller data is based on a 3 month moving average, so reported May prices include information from repeat transactions closed in March, April, and May. For this reason, the changes in the NAR median price tend to lead Case-Shiller changes.
  • For housing market performance, given recent trends in NAR data, expect Case-Shiller-measured price growth to continue to moderate in the next few months. For those seeking to determine what this means for home prices in their market, contact a local expert who can give you the most current MLS information and put these national headlines in context.

Lenders Note Impact of Higher FHA Fees

Fri, 07/25/2014 - 08:41

The mortgage market was buffeted by a number of changes in 2013 and 2014 among them higher fees at the FHA. NAR Research’ s second Survey of Mortgage Originators includes questions about the impact of changes to the FHA program on consumers.

Since 2010, the FHA has increased the rates it charges for mortgage insurance. On average, responding lenders indicated that 5.7% of originations were lost because of the increase in FHA fees. The distribution clustered between a response of 1.1% to 2.0% and 6.1% to 7.0%. A loss of 5.7% in sales would correlate to roughly 200,000 to 250,000 home sales lost, near the mid-point of estimates NAR Research produced in April [1].

When asked how consumers impacted by the increase in mortgage insurance rates responded to the higher costs, 68.4% of originators indicated that they had a client(s) who chose not to buy or to put off buying indefinitely. Nearly as many originators found that their client(s) were able to find funding through VA and RHS, but only 42.1% cited having success shifting their client(s) to conventional financing with private mortgage insurance. Only 15.8% of originators cited that a client(s) could absorb the losses while 10.5% indicated that they had a client(s) who waited to save for a larger down payment.

Higher fees at the FHA have had an impact on affordability. While some buyers were able to shift to other more affordable programs, many consumers were shut out of the market for ownership.

[1] http://economistsoutlook.blogs.realtor.org/2014/04/10/when-the-sting-of-fhas-fees-becomes-a-bite/

New Home Sales in June

Fri, 07/25/2014 - 07:14
  • New home sales slid in June. The decline is not a reflection of slower housing demand, but more related to homebuilders putting up fewer homes. Whatever builders build, they are able to find buyers reasonably quick. But the homebuilding industry has been hampered by a labor shortage and the difficulty of obtaining construction loans.
  • Numerically, in June, new home sales fell 8 percent. The decline is inconsistent with existing home sales, which had risen 3 percent. Since the existing home sales market comprises over 90 percent of all home sales, the overall housing market recovery is still intact.
  • The decline in new home sales do not reflect a lack of buyers since it takes only 3 months to find a buyer on average now versus 10 to 14 months a few years ago. The decline instead reflects too little new home construction. If homebuilders build 10 homes, then there will be 10 new home sales; if building only 3 homes then there will be 3 new home sales. Housing starts of single-family homes have mysteriously tumbled in the past two months.
  • Newly constructed home price is notably higher than that of existing homes. Higher construction costs have opened the gap between the two property types. That means there is more room for existing home price to rise to catch up.
  • Big homebuilders are publicly listed and can tap finances through Wall Street. But small homebuilders need construction loans from local banks; the difficulty of obtaining these loans have forced the small builders to be on the sidelines. Knowing this, big homebuilders are quickly buying up empty lots and lands to stake out their claim for the future.
  • After the U.S. Civil War, many former union soldiers of Irish heritage roamed across the continent to stake out their claim to land – mostly in empty western Canada. The British Queen Victoria panicked. So she immediately sent token Brits to occupy lands in western Canada. To make absolutely clear that the land belonged to the crown and not to Americans, the very outer western island was given the name Victoria Islands and the province was named as British Columbia. The lesson shows someone will claim that empty desk, empty office, expiring listing, or what not, so make a clever case that it is yours first.

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